HSFB 2020: A Trip To The Suncoast

Today’s three-pack of teams that we need a better understanding of are Palmetto, Sarasota-Riverview, and Venice. The three squads combined for a record of 29-10, but by the virtue of their insanely tough schedules, those double-digit loss totals prepared them accordingly as two of the three were state semifinalists in their respective classes. The third simply ran into the best team in school history in another case. Now let’s sort them out accordingly, shall we?


We know that the Tigers enjoyed a carbon-copy of their 2011 season going 12-2 and ending up as regional champions, as well as having their season ended by a Dade County squad. In 2011, it was a tough 35-27 loss to Norland who went on to become the state champs blasting Wakulla. Last season it was Miami Central in a heartbreaking 34-30 defeat, who then went on to blast Escambia in the 6A title game.

Sagel Hickson, Palmetto RB break away for a big run.

We know that it was just the second time getting to the state semifinals for Palmetto since 1986 when they made the finals after an eleven year stretch from their first and only state championship in 1975. We know that both of those state semifinal appearances were under the guidance of HC Dave Marino. We also know that Coach Marino will be suspended (if the season gets played at this point) for six regular-season games, but we also know that doesn’t include practices, so while there may be a slightly different vibe on game day, we know his influence will be firmly stamped on his squad. We know he begins his 11th season at the helm with a record of 76-39 having made the postseason eight of his ten seasons.

We know that Palmetto’s district (6A-12) last season from top-to-bottom was the toughest one on the entire Suncoast. Four of the five teams in PHS’ district (Port Charlotte, Charlotte, Braden River, and Palmetto) made the postseason. We know that the Tigers (during the regular season) defeated those three teams by an average score of 36-3. Those final scores were 47-7 against Port Charlotte, 27-3 against Braden River, and 34-0 against Charlotte. We also know that they were the only team to face ONLY district teams en route to the state semifinalists, but this time around the Port Charlotte and Braden River games finished with a margin of victory of less than a touchdown. Only the Charlotte game came up aces as they cruised to a 62-15 victory in regional finals.

We know that Palmetto’s 2020 schedule is the reverse of their 2019 agenda. That means out-of-district games against Pinellas Park, Manatee, Sarasota-Riverview, Largo, Tallahassee Lincoln, and St. Petersburg. We know their district remains the same with Port Charlotte, Charlotte, Southeast, and Braden River.

We know that there is quite a bit of offense to replace. We know that QB Xavier Williams has graduated, and with that goes 2,624 yards of total offense plus 27 touchdowns. We know their top four wideouts have graduated and have taken 1,760 (precisely one mile) yards plus 19 touchdowns worth of production. We know that the likes of Mikell Brown, Matt Wyatt, Ellison Bradley, Kevion Williams, Quintan Roux, Daemon Hill, and Raeqwon Crawford take 438 tackles, 25 sacks, and eight interceptions combined with them on the defense side. We know that the Tigers will return their top rusher in Sagel Hickson, and will return defensive studs Jaylen Wester, Floyd Dozier, Jordan Renaud, Myles Ormsby, and Jacquez Hughes.

We want to know if Palmetto will handle the adversity once things back to normal–or as they say nowadays–the *new* normal. Sure, things will seem normal come practice time, but it’s an entirely different beast once the stadium lights get cranked on. We want to know how they will handle a significant number of teams on their schedule being vastly improved after going through transition years themselves in the 2019 campaign. We are also curious to see if the newest school to their east, Parrish Community, will have any immediate effect on their depth. We want to know a lot of things, but we won’t learn any of them for quite some time, but we know Palmetto doesn’t lack for talent, like, ever. So let the cards fall where they may for the time being!


We know that the Rams finished their season 9-3, but fell just short to Steinbrenner’s best team in school history in the regional semifinals. We know that the Rams went undefeated in their district, smashing their competition like Ridge Community, Lennard, Riverview, and Haines City while slugging it out with Newsome. We know that after losing two of their first three games of the season to Naples and Palmetto, they went on an 8-game winning streak before the loss to the Warriors to end the season.

Riverview-Sarasota swarming defense

We know that HC Josh Smithers is entering his fourth season at the intersection of Proctor and Lords with a compiled record of 30-9. We know that the 30-wins his first three seasons on the job is 13-more than the iconic John Sprague won his first three seasons, but we also know that Sprague went on to coach for 30-years at the school and won a ton of games following.

In fact, we know that two separate four-year stretches (1988-1991 & 1994-1997) the Rams went 40-11 and 43-6 in those respective spans. We know that the Rams just finished a four-year stint compiling a 39-11 record, therefore signaling yet another resurgence for an extremely proud program. We know that in the four years before this past stretch the Rams were just 19-21, which doesn’t cut it with a program with the expectations they have on their shoulders. We know that Smithers has also guided his squad to three consecutive district titles in all three seasons on the job to go along with a regional championship in 2018.

We know that their schedule is the reverse of 2019, so with that we know that their non-district games include Naples, Braden River, Palmetto, Venice, and Sarasota, while their 8A-8 district remains Haines City, Ridge Community, Riverview, Lennard, and Newsome. We also know that QB Sean White, and RB Trayvon Hall have graduated taking well over 2,000 yards worth of offense and nearly 40 touchdowns. We also know they return their super-stud RB Michael “Poodah” Hayes Jr. for his senior season along with Omari Hayes in addition to their junior corps of receivers. We also know they return studs on defense like Daevon Lebron, Brandon Davenport, Tyre Smith, and Jarius Brewer.

What we’d like to know is the status of their offensive line, since the calling-card of the Riverview Offense is completely founded in the principle of running the ball down their opponents’ throats. We’d like to know if their top-tier JV and middle school feeder schools have produced yet-another crop of boys that know how to ground-and-pound like their predecessors. We’d like to know (given what we know about the teams’ in question) if anyone will have a tougher non-district schedule to start right out of the gate with Naples, Braden River, and Palmetto.


We know that in spite of five losses, the Indians were right back to where we have gotten used to them being–specifically–the state semifinals. In fact, we know that Venice has made four-consecutive trip to the state semis, winning the whole shabang in 2017. We know that before last season, the Indians enjoyed an unprecedented 57-8 record. We also know that John Peacock is starting his 14th season in charge, compiling a gaudy 123-33 record in the process.

Venice, 2021 WR/TE Weston Wolff warming up before the Riverview-Sarasota game

We know that the Indians used a three-headed monster approach at QB last season, but have lost two of those three to graduation. We know that those three produced 2,134 yards, but threw for nearly as many interceptions (20) as they did touchdowns (22) last year. We know this was probably a little more than frustrating given the fact for the five seasons before that they enjoyed Bryce Carpenter and Hayden Wolff combing for nearly 10,000 yards from under center.

We know that in addition to their QB’s, they lost leading rusher Brian Taylor and leading receiver Malachi Wideman. We also know they lost nearly 300 tackles combined on the defensive side of things, but in that same breath, we know they’ve got an entire battalion of playmakers coming back on that side along with RB’s Demarion Escort, Shevan Pearce, and possibly the heir apparent at QB, Steffan Johnson.

We know that Venice loves to step outside their comfort zone when it comes to scheduling, therefore we know their 2019 schedule was as tough as it gets. We know they took on IMG Academy. week one, which didn’t end well, but the following week they won a 50-49 2OT thriller at small-school dynasty Jacksonville Trinity Christian. We know they also took it on the chin against Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy, and small-school powerhouses Cocoa, in addition to locals Sarasota Riverview, as well as a tough loss to Manatee for the district championship. Speaking of that, we know that Venice avenged that loss to the ‘Canes and handsomely so in the postseason.

We know that Venice’s schedule (yet again) is a tough one. This season they’ll keep Sarasota-Rverview and Cocoa out of district, but will add Vero Beach (who they played in 2018), Southeast, American Heritage Plantation, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater Academy International. They’ll also keep Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, and Manatee in their district.

What we want to know is how quickly will both sides of the ball acclimate to the turnover without a “normal” routine of practices? We suspect they’ll be fine, because the program itself is a well-oiled machine in that regard. We are more-or-less curious as to just *how long* it will take to adjust when the games count for real.